Although the Denver-based Edison has been a band for just over two years, they have spent nearly all of that time on the road, including opening for acts such as Iron & Wine and Langhorne Slim. The trio has quickly gained a reputation from their tight and powerful live shows, and their first release, the nine-track Familiar Spirit lives up to, and surpasses the hype.
The acoustic trio of Maxwell Hughes (guitar and vocals), Sarah Slaton (guitar and vocals), and superbly talented Dustin Morris (percussion and mandolin) have spent so much of the past two years traveling that their songs were written in their van or hotel rooms. Travel seems central to the mission of the band and Familiar Spirit, as the footer to their website declares “home is wherever our feet go,” and the band’s twitter page gives their bio as “3 best friends living out of Van (Morrison).” While the album may be low budget—recorded in one cabin in the Chesapeake Bay and another in Colorado—the music sounds rich and full in quality.
“Back and Forth,” my favorite track on Familiar Spirit, is the perfect example of the lyrical and sound craftsmanship of the trio. In its structure, “Back and Forth” is traditional, almost a sea chantey in its composition, with solos and chorus blending seamlessly with simple, yet stunning percussion. The lyrics speak of the travel of a long-distance relationship, and the joy that comes with the familiarity of each mile marker that ticks off as you get closer to your destination, and the object of your love and desire. With soulful longing she cries:
Back and forth we go again
Where you stop, I will end
I don’t mind
Drive across the country
Miles between you and me
I don’t mind.
Slaton’s voice is at its most seductive in this song when she sings the lines “Ohhh my/Ohhh me/You pull like the moon/I move like the sea.”
Track number 5, “Open Road” is as well-crafted as “Back and Forth” with upbeat tempos and rhythms made for sharing a head bop in time with the person in the seat across from you. The light playful lead guitar licks work wonderfully with the washboard and other traditional folk percussion, and is the antidote to the haunting sounds of previous breakup tracks “Civil War” and “Water in the Well.”
Edison is worthy of praise, and a following, because of the authenticity in their lyrics and musicianship. An odd or rare instrument is not dropped into a song as a novelty or as a way to prove “folk” cred but because the song—either the lyrical or the musical writing—called for that particular sound to evoke a particular feeling. My only complaint about the record is that I couldn’t decide to hit repeat after each song, or to wait to listen to the entire album again.
9,300 out of 10,000 Rawckus Kung Fu Throwing Stars